The Evolution of Drum and Bass
Drumtrip has showcased a lot of classic tunes between our designated years of 1992 to 1996 since it was started.
Many of these have been stone cold anthems, others more under-appreciate personal favourites but I imagine not every visitor has encyclopaedic knowledge of Hardcore / Jungle (neither do I).
So this write-up and swift mix will hopefully demonstrate the evolution of Hardcore, to Jungle, to Drum & Bass by taking five tunes from each of the five years which were so influential in creating the sound we love.
I know a lot of this information might not be new to regular readers or people who were actually there at the time, but for anyone else; whether you dismissed Jungle at the time as another fad or you were too busy on the climbing frame at playschool to notice Original Nuttah riding the charts; this is for you.
The following tracks are a mixture of ground breaking releases ahead of their time, to the biggest classics of the years and maybe a couple of my favourites.
The mix itself was created digitally using sequencer, the reason for this was to squeeze in 25 tracks in the relatively short period of an hour to give you just a taster of the selection on offer.
Personally I prefer to let tunes roll out a lot longer when mixing the old fashioned way.
You can trace Jungle and Drum & Bass way back before where we begin 1992, and it depends how far back you wish to go.
In the early days Jungle / Drum and Bass took influences from the James Brown Funk and Soul breaks of the 60’s and 70’s, golden age 80’s Hip Hop and Acid House and the burgeoning Hardcore scene of the late 80’s to early 90’s.
But it was in 1992 in amongst the happy piano’s and catchy leads, something darker and more uniformed reared its head; and that is where we begin.
01.. Bodysnatch – Euphony (Just 4 U London) [Big City Records]
Instantly recognisable by its signature London-centric vocal sample, Euphony’s simplistic rolling breaks (sampled from Bobby Byrd’s ‘Hotpants’) , sparse samples and bass set it apart from its more frantic counterparts and takes its place as the intro to this journey.
02.. LTJ Bukem – Demons Theme [Good Looking Records]
The track that started a genre; as Hardcore started to split between the happier and darker vibes LTJ Bukem took it in a totally different direction.
Originally written in 1991, Demons Theme sounded out of place amongst its contemporaries and kick started the whole ‘intelligent’ movement of the 90’s spearheaded by Bukem’s Good Looking organisation. Rolling amens, sub bass with soothing deep strings and vocals backed with tribal percussion. This style did not catch on until late 1993 when it was being cloned by half the scene which is just testament to how ahead of its time it really was.
03.. Nasty Habits – Here Come The Drumz [Reinforced]
Darkcore had arrived, Nasty Habits AKA Doc Scott served up a 4 track EP on the legendary Reinforced and this track was the highlight.
Rolling amens once again, backed with nasty reversed hoovers and the instantly recognisable samples ‘Confusion! Here come the drums’. Relentless stuff.
04.. Metalheads – Terminator [Synthetic]
Goldie had already been producing under the name ‘Rufige Kru’ on Reinforced records, and guided by Marc Mac and Dego produced this seminal piece of work.
Futuristic sounding beats, with what is believed to be the first example of multi-pitched or times stretched drum loops peppered with vocal snippets from the classic Terminator movie and big bass stabs. It went on to be one of Goldie’s biggest tracks (until 1994) and helped propel him to the forefront of the genre. “You’re talking about things I haven’t done yet!”
05.. Noise Factory – Breakage #4 [3rd Party]
Another example of a tune pushing the boundaries and shows how fast the music was changing in late 1992. Noise Factory was already a recognised name with a slew of releases on 3rd Party parent label Ibiza Records. Breakage #4 was a variant on a track on the same EP called Futuroid, a very simple track with repetitive bleeps, rolling amens and the vocal of ‘I bring you the future’.
This track was up to 20BPM faster than other tunes at the time and mixes nicely with more contemporary Drum & Bass and as such has had numerous remixes. It’s fair to say the track lived up to its vocal sample.
06.. Q-Project – Champion Sound (Alliance Remix) [Legend Records]
Q-Project and the Legend Records crew had already been producers of the more conventional Hardcore sound but it was 1993 when they really established their own style.
The label was a mix of deep, spaced out jungle as pioneered by Lucky Spin and the emerging Darkcore sound. The original mix of Champion Sound was written towards the end of 1992 and would have been a contender for the ’92 section of our mix. But the Alliance Remix became the biggest track on Legend and was an example of the signature Drum and Bass sound.
The rolling beats, with big sub-bass hits, Ragga-tinged vocal and the famous synth stabs.
Still one of the biggest tracks today, it has since been remixed countless times in multiple genres.
07.. LTJ Bukem – Music (Happy Raw) [Good Looking]
Another year, another Bukem tune. For 1993 there were a few contenders from the Good Looking camp but being a personal favourite of mine, it had to find its place in the mix.
Starting with a hypnotic bell sample the tune rolls out but features Bukem’s signature progressive style. Half way through, the mood of the tune changes to a much darker vibe, with solemn chords and very tribal beats, a lot of DJ’s had often mixed in the next tune by this point so it is a part of the tune that is often overlooked. Honourable mention to Bukem’s ‘Atlantis’ remix but this pipped it.
08.. Omni Trio – Renegade Snares (Foul Play Remix) [Moving Shadow]
I am not quite sure how a Moving Shadow tune didn’t feature earlier in the mix having been around since the beginning. But this track alone pretty much demonstrates Moving Shadow at the peak of their powers in 1993. With a fantastic set of artists such as Omni Trio, Foul Play, Cloud 9 and 2 Bad Mice, along with Reinforced it is probably the greatest Hardcore / Jungle label there was.
Omni Trio was already well known for his piano led, subtle Hardcore sound and Renegade Snares was a certified classic, but Foul Play toughened it up for the dance floor and created a monster that still gets dropped in sets today, made famous to a new generation by a certain Andy C teasing it over todays upfront Drum and Bass.
09.. Origin Unknown – Valley Of The Shadows [Ram Records]
When experienced producer Ant Miles combined with 15 year old Essex resident Andy C, they started a special label and created a special tune. With the Ram only a year old it was a B-side track that would go on to be the biggest in the labels history totally over-shadow the A-Side which was the excellent amen roller ‘The Touch’.
Valley Of The Shadows, like many timeless tunes was a relatively simple affair but would form the classic Drum & Bass blueprint.
The bell sample, the break loop and several other samples all came from a CD given away in a 1993 edition of Future Music magazine. However the ‘long dark tunnel’ vocal was sourced from a BBC documentary from 1989 about out of body experiences.
The bass laden tune got ever increasingly popular over time and was remixed and re-issued in 1996 on Ram and was one of their biggest selling tracks.
10.. Subnation – Scotties Sub [Mercyless]
Another track ahead of its time was the notorious Scotties Sub (or just Scottie).
Made up of what sounds like only five or six tracks, it was minimal genius.
It featured some clever amen chopping neatly laid behind the main break that drives the tune along.
Simple but effective sub bass is present but probably the most famous aspect of the tune is the inclusion of the samples lifted from the 80′s black comedy / horror ‘The Evil Dead’.
Cries of ‘Scottie!’, ‘I don’t wanna die’ and demonic laughter make this a classic.
11.. Renegade – Terrorist [Moving Shadow]
Ray Keith with the help of Nookie was already an established and respected producer by the time Terrorist hit the shops in 1994. By no means the first record to utilise Amen Brother break by The Winstons, but it went on to be probably the biggest amen track of them all.
As well as the amen break, you have the classic intro piano melody and of course the huge bassline.
The bass was taken from a track by Kevin ‘Reese’ Saunderson called ‘Just Want Another Chance’.
This 1988 slice of early Detroit techno had been sampled before but Terrorist made it its own and spawned years of copycats and became a staple part of D&B, especially the Tech-Step sound pioneered by No-U-Turn.
12.. Dead Dred – Dred Bass [Moving Shadow]
Another Moving Shadow tune and another landmark, Dead Dred aka Ascend & Ultra vibe were already producing for Back 2 Basics but this one was no doubt their biggest track by some distance.
Dreamy and swirly synths are interrupted by gunshots and then the dread sample hits, this sets up the frantically pitched amens and what is commonly referred to as the first reversed sub bass line in Jungle. This style of bass was huge within the UK dance scene and was re-used over again in Jungle and the new genre of Speed Garage a year or two later.
13.. Tom & Jerry – Maxi(mun) Style [Tom & Jerry Records]
Consisting of Marc Mac & Dego AKA 4Hero; Tom & Jerry was known as the duos more dance floor orientated alias having released some classic Hardcore tracks a couple of years before.
There were so many great tracks in this year but I felt this one shows the range Jungle had in encompassing samples from all genres and in this case the Funk and Soul genre.
Sampled from Maxi – Lover To Lover, Maxi(mun) Style starts off positive and soulful with familiar strings and melody before dropping with hard bass and Jungle FX. As with many of these classics, it has since been remixed several times.
14.. Leviticus – The Burial (Lovers Rock Mix) [Philly Blunt]
Anthems don’t come much bigger than this one, so big in fact Pete Tong picked up on it and re-released it on his FFRR label.
Leviticus was DJ Jumping Jack Frost, with only a few releases previously he was not that prolific as a producer but with Optical and Dillinja on the boards for the two different versions of the track, it was destined to be huge.
Spurred on by the ‘Think’ break drum loop sampled from a Lynn Collin’s track of the same name, The Burial had it all; moody strings, Ragga vocals, the sing-along section, a hefty bassline and a melody to hum along to.
15.. Goldie presents Metalheads – Inner City Life [FFRR]
Possibly the greatest Jungle or Drum and Bass tune ever made.
From the creative mind of Goldie, perfectly crafted with the help of Moving Shadow boss Rob Playford as engineer; Inner City Life was a landmark and gained major airplay on Radio and MTV.
The amazingly mournful vocals of Diane Charlemagne work brilliantly with the deep strings and choppy beats to create a masterpiece.
The track proved to the media that Jungle was more than just a ‘rave’ music, and it was capable of being just great music on its own, whether it’s in the dance or at home. The album Timeless, three tracks woven together for over 20 minutes as a symphony concreted this notion.
16.. Dillinja – The Angels Fell [Metalheadz]
Dillinja was already creating crushing jungle work-outs for a couple of years by this point, often Ragga influenced and more dance floor orientated but this track signalled a slight change in some of his output and was one of several tracks that pushed the futuristic tech-step sound.
The intro starts with strings sampled from the Bladerunner OST by Vangelis (a goldmine sample source for D&B producers) and lazy breaks taken from the Incredible Bongo Band’s version of ‘Apache’, originally by The Shadows. When it drops a subtle amen and huge bass combo drive the track along without it ever really letting loose. A refined classic.
17.. Alex Reece – Pulp Fiction [Metalheadz]
Love it or hate it, this track divided opinion but there is no disputing its effect on the progression of Drum and Bass. With its very simple two-step drum pattern Pulp Fiction offered something different and focussed on a simple groove and smooth but very big bass line. It was a huge hit which the way for Drum & Bass becoming a predominately two-step genre by 1997.
Due to the two-step pattern sounding slower, despite being the same BPM as everything else, many believe it pushed the average tempo of Drum & Bass to over 174BPM, much to the dismay of many original jungle fans. Personally I love the tune for what it is, but maybe not so much for what it helped create.
18.. P-Funk – P-Funk Era [Frontline]
P-Funk AKA Pascal was another who had been around since the early days of jungle, creating massive tracks like Johnny and Flammable under the alias of Johnny Jungle along with Sponge.
1995 was the dawn of the rollers and this was one of the best examples. Featuring Dr Dre influenced strings, a rolling break with further samples from KRS-One and the usual floaty female vox, P-Funk Era was played and remixed for years after.
19.. Andy C – Roll On [Ram Records]
As the title suggests, another one of the rollers, this time from Andy C who still must have only been around 16 years old at the time of release. This, as with other tracks at the time followed a similar pattern; strings and melodies from the intro, the percussion builds until the bass hits, and when it finally drops it is almost an anti-climax as it peaks earlier in the build-up. Another track that followed this pattern was Jo – R-Type which narrowly missed out being included in the 1993 section.
A vintage double A-side release from Ram with ‘Cool Down’ on the flip, and as such was re-released as part of Ram’s 15th year anniversary in 2007.
20.. T-Power – The Mutant – Rollers Instinct (DJ Trace Remix) [SOUR Records]
DJ Trace, along with Ed Rush and Nico gave birth to the Tech-Step genre and this may be one of the earliest proper examples of the style.
The DJ Trace remix of Mutant Jazz totally changed the atmosphere of the original with spooky reversed piano keys, horn stabs and huge subs combined with the Reese bassline made famous by Terrorist a year earlier. This style went on to be huge throughout 1996-97 with No-U-Turn and Metalheadz pushing the boundaries.
21.. Cybotron presents Dillinja – Threshold [Prototype]
The dark Tech-Step style was in full effect by 1996 with No-U-Turn and Metalheadz pioneering the sound. Dillinja perfectly demonstrates the movement away from conventional Jungle sound to a more subtle and futuristic style.
Grooveriders label Prototype was also highly influential in establishing this new sub-genre and the incubator was the legendary Metalheadz nights at London club The Blue Note.
I could have chosen one of several tracks from Dillinja alone in this year, including Silver Blade, but the strings, massive (deliberately) distorted bass line and status as a Blue Note anthem means Threshold gets the nod.
22.. Nasty Habits – Shadow Boxing [31 Records]
That man Doc Scott again, back then the King Of The Rollers was always ahead of the game and created this extremely dark steppy number.
The tune rolls out with sharp beats, deep bass and that huge hypnotic synth driving the tune along, it sounds like the end of days but at the same time shows restraint. I imagine it sounded very unique at the time.
23.. Boymerang – Soul Beat Runna [Regal]
Boymerang was a bit of an enigma, the man behind the name is now ‘alternative rock’ producer Graham Sutton. At the time he was well known for his part in group Bark Psychosis but around 1994, maybe intrigued by the explosion of Jungle he began his own productions.
This culminated in releases and remixes for Prototype recordings and No-U-Turn as well as a full length LP. The LP in my opinion is easily one of the greatest Drum & Bass albums of the 90’s and amongst the track list is probably his most famous creation; Soul Beat Runna.
Soul Beat Runna is known for drum loop that runs throughout the track, it was a Boymerang’s creation entirely, made by deconstructing the amen break and replacing the individual drum hits with new samples (among other techniques). The loop was left clean deliberately by Sutton so other producers could sample it and Dillinja took the invitation and used it to great effect with the monstrous Silver Blade. Shortly after the album’s release Boymerang left the scene as fast as he entered and continued his work as a producer for various Rock acts including British Sea Power.
24.. Photek – The Hidden Camera (Static Mix) [Science]
This list would not be complete without a Photek score and I am surprised it took until we reached 1996. However, prior to this time Photek did what he did best which mostly consisted of amen smashers across a spectrum of labels, but it was this release that he cemented that Photek sound after great work on his own ‘Photek’ label the year before (Rings Around Saturn anyone?).
The Hidden Camera was dark, jazzy, with sparse samples and funky double bass throughout with his trademark ninja beats. This style peaked with the fantastic Ni-Ten-Ichi-Ryu (Two Swords Technique) which made the UK top 40 and featured on the end credits to the Wesley Snipes vampire flick ‘Blade’.
25.. Adam F – Circles [Section 5]
Although originally released at the tail end of 1995, it wasn’t until 1997 that the track was re-issued on F-Jams and featured on the seminal album Colours, that it truly made its mark outside of Drum & Bass circles (excuse the pun!).
A perfect example of the way this music can be enjoyed at home relaxing, or in the middle of a hyped-up club night. Sampling Bob James’ Westchester Lady as the foundation of the tune, Adam F created one of the most recognisable and celebrated tracks of the 90’s.
Circles seems to transcend genres, even Drum & Bass sub-genres and appears to be universally enjoyed, something you do not really get with the Drum & Bass tracks of 2011.
That brings the mix and the write-up to an end, there are plenty of tracks I have missed out, there is no mention of Ed Rush, DJ Crystl or Source Direct, some of my favourite producers. But there were only five places available per year, and I chose what I thought were either the most groundbreaking tracks, or the biggest in general.
Please post below with what tunes you think should have been added, and as stated previously, I wasn’t there to witness this so please feel free to correct any of the above information!
Main author and creator of Drumtrip.
I have been listening to and mixing drum and bass in its various forms since 1998.
Drumtrip was designed to celebrate the glory years between 1991 and 1997.